NMC Cosponsors Arts Skills Map Linking Arts Activities with Key 21st Century Skills

P21 Arts MapIn collaboration with national arts organizations, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has charted how arts education promotes key 21st-century skills in a map released earlier this month. The 21st Century Skills Map: The Arts is the fifth in a series of core content maps from P21, and was cosponsored by the NMC. The map illustrates how the “four Cs” of critical thinking and problem solving, communication, creativity and innovation, and collaboration can be integrated into the arts, including dance, music, theater, and the visual and media arts.

According to the map, “students’ capacity to create and express themselves through the arts is one of the central qualities that make them human, as well as a basis for success in the 21st century.” Despite their crucial importance to young people’s intellectual and emotional development, the arts suffer disproportionately when tight budgets force schools to cut programming. The map is intended to help educators, policymakers, and administrators appreciate the connections between student achievement goals listed in the National Standards for Arts Education (1994), the artistic processes of creating, performing, and responding, and concrete examples outlined in the map of some of the ways children acquire 21st-century skills through arts study.

The map names and defines thirteen such skills, including the “4 Cs,” and lists an overarching outcome and concrete examples of student activities at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grade level for each. Each example is marked with a symbol to indicate which arts discipline(s) it addresses, though many of the examples might easily be adapted to other arts forms. Many of the examples also speak to key interdisciplinary themes such as global awareness, financial literacy, health literacy, and civic literacy.

Some examples include:

21st-Century Skill: Media Literacy; Grade Level: 4; Art: Theater. Students research an important issue or conflict central to their lives. Included in their research is an exploration of the ways the issue or conflict is represented in the media and how different points of view are embedded in different media presentations. They create a storyboard and script for a short video designed to express their point of view.

21st-Century Skill: Innovation; Grade Level: 8; Art: Visual Arts. Students work in small groups to select an existing graphic novel and create alternative endings to the story using animation or text-to-movie software that incorporates different points of view and identifies the incremental steps involved in depicting action, changes, cause and effect, or transformation to reach the new endings.

“I think the map makes a great case for why the arts are a critical part of a 21st-century education,” notes NMC CEO, Dr. Larry Johnson. “The next step is to use it to structure curricular programming, design student project assignments, and expand arts offerings to really strengthen the natural connections between 21st-century skills and the arts.” Johnson continues, “We plan to use the map as a general framework for thinking about visual arts education, as well as to inform programming for the Marcus Institute for Digital Media in the Arts (MIDEA).” The Institute, a collaboration between the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation and the NMC, showcases best practices in visual arts education.

Johnson served on the P21 Working Group, which was the project’s steering committee. NMC’s Vice President of Services, Rachel Smith, contributed to the review process. Contributors to the development of the map include national arts and educational organizations such as the American Alliance for Theatre & Education, the Educational Theatre Association, the National Art Education Association, the National Association for Music Education (MENC), the National Dance Association, and the National Dance Education Organization.

The map’s official release was held July 15, 2010 on Capitol Hill and was attended by representatives from P21, officials from several arts organizations, and a number of art students. For further information, please see P21’s website.

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